AN; This is earthborn, sole survivor! I wrote the flashfic while I had to take a break from this to find out how graphic I wanted it to be. I toned it way down actually, but that just flowed best. For now I planned two chapters, but I can't really say if another sneaks up on me.
John took a deep breath and poured himself a generous glass of bourbon he had gotten from Liara. He wet his lips and turned on the camera. He could see himself on the screen as he recorded, which was slightly disconnecting, but he would go through with this anyway. He had done a lot of thinking, Jack and Garrus had told him that when it came to his person, he was about as clammed up as they come. He had tried to talk to Samara, and she had just given him some motherly, flowery advise that had served no purpose other than to emasculate him even further, and make him wish he had never asked. It was not till he had caught Thane in the bathroom on the crew deck, someone had made somewhat sense. Funny how it could be such a hard question to ask, and maybe his venue could have been better. Thane had just shrugged and said 'you'll exorcise those demons in time.' It had been cryptic at best when he had heard it, but the more he thought about it, the more he was convinced that Thane meant that he didn't tell anyone about himself because he was afraid. And that was just what he was. Afraid. He weren't really sure if he was afraid of their reaction, or how real it would be for him, once he put words to his memory.
He wasn't sure that the Normandy2 would even make it through the Omega4 relay, and no matter how much he wished that he was not alone right now, that he could dive into another person, and push all worries from his mind. Stress relief as Garrus would have put it. Then he was alone besides that stupid hamster he had been compelled to buy, he must have been drunk or something, for that to sound like a good idea. He suddenly realised he had been sitting staring into his drink for long silent moments on his recording, and he once again wet his lips. "I.. I uhm, I wish.. I wish you were here." He just said, smiling awkwardly, "But I also know why you aren't."
He took a sip of his drink, and took a deep breath, "If I don't return from this mission, I won't get the chance to tell you this, and I know you're going to be furious that I send you a message like this, but I promise you it's not a goodbye message. I count on coming back from the Collector home world, and.. And.. Shit Kaidan, it was not supposed to be like this." He rubbing his face with a callused hand. "You remember those long evenings we used to have back then? We'd just hang out and talk? You'd tell me everything about you, about your childhood, the atrocities done to you. And I am not that stupid Kaidan, I knew you hoped I'd tell you something about me as well. But I just never did, I guess I'm trying to tell you, that it was not because I didn't want to, - I... " He closed his eyes for a moment, feeling absolutely idiotic. "Alright," He said in his best 'comander voice', "If you don't want to hear it, you should just turn the recording off here. I won't think less of you if you do." He nervously wet lips yet again, and stared straight into the camera. "You know I am an orphan right? But did you know I have a brother? Mark is five years older than me, and.. My parents, I don't remember them." Shepard looked down at his drink, "I don't even know their names."
Shepard smiled sadly, "I used to entertain myself with my parents had just gone off to find a better place at a colony, leaving us in the care of someone who betrayed their trust. And that they were searching for us, leaving no stone unturned." He laughed a little bitterly, "Truth is that I don't know what happened to them. When I was little, Mark used to tell me they had been murdered by some bad people. But when we got older, he would tell me to snap the fuck out of it, and just deal with it. They had left, wanting to start over without kids." Shepard looked up at the camera again, "I wish I had a holo of them, I wish I could have seen their faces, just once. I don't really care why they had left us, but to leave us without any means of remembering them, that is just cruel."
He took another sip of his drink, his mouth suddenly dry. "There was never any love between me and Mark. We depended on each other, and that was about it. He would always get me out of trouble, but.." Shepard closed his eyes again, downing the drink, "Why is this so hard to tell you? Maybe it's just because I never told anyone, I simply can't think of anyone I want to tell it to, besides you. And I'm not even sure I want to tell you."
Filling his glass again, Shepard looked at the amber liquid swirling. "What I remember best from before Mark found the Reds, is being cold all the damn time, I remember that I would stand in the street, asking anyone who would listen, that I had lost my mommy, and I needed help finding her again. It worked like a charm, when it worked. Sometimes I guess people saw through the ruse a little too fast." Shepard paused, "I still hate being cold."
"So Mark found the Reds, or I suppose they found him, I don't know and I don't care. All I know is that we got to move into this huge empty factory building with the others, and they had beds and everything." Shepard laughed a little at the memory, "Someone even got me a sweater, funny that I remember that thing, it was ruined and this odd green color. But it was the neatest sweater I had ever had." Shepard unbuttoned the collar of his uniform, "A girl named Freya taught me to read, and some basic math. I remember that some of the others thought it was a waste of time, but as she didn't care. She wanted us younger ones to be something else, something more than just another casualty in a gang war." He blinked slowly, "She was killed some years later, not even by a rival gang, but her jealous boyfriend. Such a waste.." Shepard's voice trailed off.
He straightened up in the chair, pouring himself another drink, "I don't know what to tell you, back then every day was about survival. None of us had time to think about what we were doing. I would mostly crawl through narrow places like air ducts, so we could rob the place, or pickpocket. I was a slim, scrawny kid, and I had a lot to prove, not just to Mark, but to them all. It was a constant battle to keep your place in the hierarchy, and make yourself useful." Shepard took a sip of his drink. "It was what it was, I guess I had accepted that this was what would be my life. I suppose it all started with me breaking my arm, I was running from some tourists, I slipped as I jumped down a ladder to the sewers, and broke my arm. I ran back to the factory, only to find that the leader of the Reds, Warrick, was absolutely livid. Apparently Mark had taken off with Warrick's girlfriend." Shepard chuckled softly, "I admit that I had never seen that one coming, or well... I was a teenage boy, it's not like I hadn't noticed her, and her.. uhm.. perks. But still never crossed my mind that Mark would be crazy enough to go for it." A shadow of anger darkened Shepard's features. "Mark was gone, as in swallowed by the ground! And who was the next best scapegoat? Right, me. Warrick was a brutal man, and he wasn't less brutal because I was a big kid. And I couldn't do anything but to suck it up, and take whatever he would throw at me. I had nowhere else to go, and to stay in the city without the Reds protection was a death sentence. For me at least, because the other gangs knew who I were." Shepard shook his head slowly, looking away from the camera. "I wouldn't have lasted for 24 hours. And I knew it."
Shepard took another sip of his drink, looking out over the screen and out at space outside the Normandy, as it passed the large window. "There was a whole lot of 'firsts' in that time, my first time I got really pissy drunk, first time I won a fist fight, and the first time I met someone.." Much to his annoyance Shepard felt himself blush slightly, and blamed the booze. "Oh what the hell.. Might as well tell you. See those days I spent all my time staying under Warrick's radar, I buckled up, did what I was asked to, and tried my damnedest to make it count. I suppose I isolated myself a little, or maybe it was the others that stayed clear of me, not wanting to have Warrick notice them either. I spent a lot of my time alone, and when I weren't doing something, I would sit at the roof of the factory and read old magazines, books, comics, whatever I could get my hands on. Just spending time you know? This girl, Jen, she had noticed and.." He cleared his throat with a nervous cough, and took a sip of his drink before continuing. "To make a long story short, she told me that I didn't have to be alone, that her and her boyfriend Tibus had a proposition for me.. And I.." Shepard smiled smugly, "I took it, joining them, mooching off their happiness. It was never awkward or strange, they always made me feel important, cherished and loved."
Filling his glass again Shepard's grin widened. "One day were were laying naked in the sun, like fat, satisfied lizards. Sharing a smoke, talking about everything and nothing, when a company of soldiers marched past below us. I rolled over and looked down at them with childish fascination. Tibus pushed me with a foot playfully and laughed, he said 'maybe we should join you know?' - And that we did, Jen, Tibus and I. We all went down to the recruitment office to sign up. But you see, I was only 17, and so while they signed on Jen and Tibus, I had to stand outside and wait for them to come out with their deployment papers in their hands, where as I had nothing. I still recall that like it was yesterday. They were grinning and talking about how we were on the fucking gravytrain now. And then they saw me sitting there, they saw my face, suppose they saw my disappointment. And we all knew that what we had was over, they would leave, and I wouldn't blame them, because I would have done the same in a heartbeat. But the reality was that the only thing that had kept me sane, and maybe even alive, was leaving me behind. It felt like someone crushed my very soul. It was a thousand times worse than when Mark had just gotten up and left. Jen and Tibus felt so much more like family. But we weren't, we were lovers. And lovers leave." Shepard downed his drink before talking again, "Tibus said something with 'I'm sorry John', Jen cried, but I didn't cry, I don't think I even reacted really. I kissed them both goodbye and while they went over to where they were to be picked up and driven to the base, then I had to walk the long way back to the factory. I just remember that I felt like I was never going to get away from here, never going to get away from the Reds. Don't get me wrong, most those guys were alright, but it was just not enough."
Shepard got up from his seat, leaving the video recording, too drunk to turn it off. He emerged from the bathroom again and sat down while pouring another drink. "So where were I?" He mumbled. "Oh yeah, I told myself that I just had to run with this another year, and I would be old enough to enlist. I daydreamed about distant stars, and seeing strange worlds with exotic species. Quite funny really, when you think about it." He laughed mirthlessly. "I didn't think it would be easy to wait, but I had not thought it would have been that hard either. All the time I had spent with comics, and then with Jen and Tibus, I now spent exercising, lifting homemade weights." Shepard took a drink and licked his lips. "And it was also about the time where Warrick got slightly paranoid, I don't know why exactly, but I suppose that he thought someone else was gunning for his seat. So he was running a very tight ship to say the least, while trying to flush out whatever upcommer that might have it in for him. Maybe he thought it was a whole damn conspiracy, I don't know. But I do remember a lot of people were really tired of the way he ran things." He took a deep breath, "What happened was.. was, this girl. Her name was Annie, she had caught the eye of Warrick, but I had caught hers. Don't ask me how I did that, It's not like i was ever a looker or nothing. And absolutely not when I was seventeen." Shepard laughed to himself, amused. "I was a terrible catch." His smile faltered, "Still am."
He looked back out at space from his seat, drinking in silence for a moment before continuing. "Annie took a liking to me, I suppose it had something to do with us being around the same age. I don't know really. Warrick on the other hand replayed the whole Mark story in his head, and Annie's attempts to befriend me just ended up in me getting beat up, badly. I don't think anyone ever gave me a trashing like that since, of course if anyone tried now, I'd kill them." He laughed softly at his own bad attempt at sounding like an hardass. "She was a devious little bitch, and I actually think it was all her doing. You know making Warrick jealous. But I don't know what I ever did to her to piss her off like that. But as I was tucked away in a room, waiting for my fucking spleen to mend. She and Warrick had a huge engagement party. I could hear it from upstairs, and as I lay there, I decided that I didn't care how dangerous the world was for someone like me, as soon as I could get out of the bed, I was gone."
Shepard closed his eyes and nodded off a little, "Shit, I wish, I wish I didn't have to be this pissfaced to tell you this, I mean.. Trust is hard to come by, you know this as well as I do. Anyway maybe I should go to bed and sleep. It's a long day tomorrow." He laughed again, but there was no humor in his tone, it sounded more like choking. John leaned in and ended the recording.
When the recording was turned on again, Shepard looked a little beside himself, but sipping a cup of coffee instead of bourbon. "Forgot where I was last night." He said with a thin voice. "But I suppose that I made it to the part of the story you can read in my personal file." He took a careful sip of his coffee, "Wideeyed kid stuck in a uniform, given a standard issue rifle and let loose on the world." Shepard smiled, "Didn't really go so well, and yet here I am." He looked down into the table, his shoulders slumped slightly. "I know you wonder about my family, but I took a decision a long time ago. I don't want to know who my parents are, if they could leave a little toddler like me behind, they are not people that I want to know. And if they really were killed, then there is no point in looking for them. Mark however I checked up on, he married, had a son and.. was one of the people to colonize Akuze." Shepard fell silent. "I don't know what happened to anyone else, I tried very hard to forget this whole thing, I have seen no reason to relive it. But you, I trust you." Shepard looked directly into the camera, "Be safe Kaidan, I promise you I will return from the Collectors home world and make you eat your words." He smiled, but the smile never reached his eyes. He knew it was a very real possibility that he wouldn't make it back.